Global Down Syndrome Foundation Announces Winners of Self-Advocate Employment Initiative Grants

Recipients includes eight organizations in seven states

CHARLOTTE, NC (March 4, 2016) – Today, during the Down Syndrome Affiliate in Action (DSAIA) conference, Global Down Syndrome Foundation announced the winners of its first annual Employment Initiative Grant. These grants will empower local Down syndrome organizations to hire individuals with Down syndrome and to help attract sustainable funding from other sources in the future.

“We are pleased to announce such worthy winners of Global Down Syndrome Foundation’s first ever Employment Initiative Grant,” said president and CEO Michelle Sie Whitten. “With the great work that each of these organizations tackle I look forward to continuing to create further employment opportunities for people with Down syndrome.”

The Self-Advocate Employment Initiative grants will impact communities across America, with winners from Down syndrome advocacy groups in Danville, CA; Independence, OH; Tiburon, CA; St. Francis, WI; Danville, CA; Memphis, TN; Roswell, NM; Ewing, NJ; and Boynton Beach, FL. In its inaugural year, recipients will use the grant to hire new employees with Down syndrome, or continue employment of existing employees with Down syndrome originally made possible from previous grants that have since expired. Self-advocates will be performing a variety of jobs including medical advocacy, landscaping, conducting ability awareness workshops at schools, and teaching sign language. In total, this grant program will support the employment of fourteen self-advocates in 2016.

Using the grant to support the most self-advocates of all the winners is Down Syndrome Connection of the Bay Area (DSCBA). This grant will help to increase the hours of four already employed self-advocates:

  • Eli has worked with DSCBA since 2009 when he and classmates first created a presentation to teach school children how to include, respect, and support individuals with Down syndrome. He has since given this presentation to classes from kindergarten through college and also volunteers in a 1st grade classroom and with Meals on Wheels.
  • Between volunteering at his local library twice a week and serving as an usher at his church, Joseph supports the DSCBA headquarters as an administrative assistant, which helps him live in his own apartment. 
  • Marissa’s 2-year postsecondary work with the Wayfinders Program at California State University in Fresno has equipped her to serve as a teaching assistant at an early education center, operations and event assistant at an event center, assistant food server, and DSCBA’s Community Outreach Associate.
  • K. Leigh balances two jobs, one as a teaching aid for children with disabilities, which she enjoys because the “kids are loveable, make [her] happy, and are so fun.” She has played clarinet for twe
    nty years and performs for her DSCBA colleagues at each year’s holiday party.

K. Leigh working as a teacher's aid for Down Syndrome Connection of the Bay Area“This grant will enable Down Syndrome Connection of the Bay Area to increase the hours, thereby income, of four individuals in our community with Down syndrome,” said executive director Nancy Labelle. “This is another great example of the benefits we receive as an official member of the Global Down Syndrome Foundation.”

On the other end of the spectrum, Down Syndrome Association of Central New Jersey will make major strides as the grant from Global will not only allow them to hire their first employee with Down syndrome, but their first employee overall; currently, they are purely volunteer based. This employee will join medical advocacy campaigns, help plan events, and be responsible for periodically self-ranking their performance as part of the review process.

“The Down Syndrome Association of Central New Jersey is especially appreciative of this grant as we are a small organization with big goals,” said president Melissa Burgos. “We’re excited to hire our first employee with Down syndrome and about the impact he or she will have on our work.”

It has been reported that those who have a co-worker with Down syndrome have higher work satisfaction levels; Global Down Syndrome Foundation hopes to spread the positive impact by supporting more people with Down syndrome in the workforce in the coming years through the annual employment initiative grants. Eligibility to receive an employment initiative grant is just one of the benefits of Global membership. To learn about other member benefits and to become a member please visit the membership page.

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